Just The Essentials

One essential worker tells her feelings about customers, their actions, and what you can do to help.


Allexis Demas

ESSENTIAL: Morgan Kromer checks out a customer behind a plexi-glass wall, wearing a mask, and covered in hand sanitizer.

The hardest and maybe weirdest day of my job at Dierbergs Markets was not Thanksgiving or Christmas, or simply a day I was in a bad mood. In fact, I was in a fine mood. March 13 of this year we had more sales than Thanksgiving or Christmas. It was a difficult day to work for anyone. It was one of the first busy days due to the COVID-19 pandemic and most people were not happy, and I am not talking about the employees. Of course, it didn’t slow down after that.

In fact, that day, the funniest thing happened. I was able to laugh about it afterward, but telling you I was infuriated when it happened would be a slight understatement. An hour before I was leaving this awful eight-and-a-half-hour shift, a woman came up to me and immediately complained about how messy my conveyor belt was. We, of course, try to keep our belts as clean as possible, constantly wiping them down. But how could we when we were constantly drowning in thousand-dollar-orders. So, flustered, I cleaned it for her. But that was only the beginning. She started looking around my register for hand sanitizer and, coming up short, decided to say something along the lines of ‘not having sanitizer is illegal and I will send you to jail.’ I was so shocked. 

I don’t know how familiar everyone is with the laws on hand sanitizer as of early March, but it definitely was not illegal to not have sanitizer, plus I already had sanitizing wipes. I wiped my hands down with the wipes for her as she continued to tell me how she might not let me touch her groceries and might have to get my managers involved. I rang up her order and got rid of her as fast as possible. When the customer behind her came up laughing, I realized I didn’t really need to care what some reclusive, self-deemed police officer thought about sanitizer; so we laughed together. 

 In the days that followed, I don’t think there was an employee at the store who wasn’t berated”

— Morgan Kromer

In the days that followed, I don’t think there was an employee at the store who wasn’t berated, whether on or off the clock. A friend of mine got yelled at by a stranger for linking arms with her boyfriend. What I am trying to say is: people are going nuts over something, yes, harmful, but also something that should bring us together as a society. 

But not everyone is going crazy over the virus. One customer used her sudden extra free time to make the employees at my work masks so we could all be safe. Before that we had bandannas and some of us were lucky enough to get the real surgical masks which had just come in. 

I am considered essential, I’m placed with nurses, I’ve been called a superhero by customers. I don’t consider myself to be as amazing as a nurse. I consider myself lucky to still have my job. But some days we do go home and we collapse from the mental and physical exhaustion, surrendering to the weight of customer’s comments. 

So we deal with the “when is toilet paper coming in?” When we have absolutely no clue. But I don’t think anyone in this entire world has any idea about most things during normal times in life, let alone now, and that’s okay. What we should really do is all be the superheroes, all have each other’s backs, all do everything we are capable of for the greater good. Be like that woman who made the masks. Do what you can and don’t complain about what we can’t. We need it now more than ever.